Seven: The Text Adventure

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Russell L. Bryan

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May 6, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/6/96
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I just finished watching "Seven" for the first time, having been warned
ahead of time of its disturbing nature (unfortunately, the moment
someone told me that it WAS disturbing, I rather accurately predicted
the ending. Hence, it didn't disturb me that much; in fact, I found it
to be a wonderful film -- one of the most artfully written thrillers
I've seen since Silence of the Lambs), and it fascinated my that any
sane writer could conceive of such an evil concept. It also got my mind
moving, and I thought I might throw this out to you all as a public
opinion poll of sorts.

Imagine an interactive text adventure where you are a serial murderer.
The introduction informs you of the plot in your head -- since I'm not
feeling that imaginative at the moment, let's use "seven" as a model.
In order to "win" the game, you must commit seven grisly murders based
on the sins. You have many items at your disposal, including maps of
the city, photographs of some potential victims, etc. In the course of
the game you must escape the detectives who are tracking you without
getting sloppy or screwing up one of the murders.

Now the concept for "Seven" is a bit complicated, so the actual game
would have to be a bit simpler -- we really can't spend a year
emaciating one of the NPCs. Well, let's face it, we can't use "Seven"
at all without breaking copyright laws. Yet imagine a game which opened
like this:


You take care with the letters, ensuring that your unconventional paint
does not drip from its canvas. You step back and admire your progress.
"SLO" is neatly printed across the wall, an unfinished fresco in blood.
You kneel down to obtain some more paint from Victor's bedsores and
return to your work, cross your "T," and then move on to the "H."
Victor is surprisingly quiet at the moment, but you know it's simply
shock. You imagine the past eleven months have been rather painful for
him, although you aren't quite sure how much pain he is capable of
registering any more. His muscles, what there are of them, are one with
the skin which has stretched itself tightly against the skull and neck,
changing his fingers to talons, his chest to a pale cage, his eyes to
yellow marbles rolling in shallow pits. Victor is almost finished, and
it is nearly time to move on, to quicken the pace, to complete the
masterpiece. You step back once more, brushing the forest of air
fresheners from your head, and admire your work: Victor, splayed out on
the bed from which he has not moved in eleven months, the revolting
sheets, the plentiful weeping bedsores, and the title, the message, the
sermon, displayed prominently above the headboard -- SLOTH.

It's as good a beginning as any.

SEVEN: A Masterpiece of Sin
Written by One Sick Bastard

Victor's Bedroom

When you first brough Victor here eleven months ago, it didn't look all
that much better than it does now. Of course, then there weren't air
fresheners hung from every square inch of the ceiling either, but then
the smell hadn't been so bad, either. The windows, naturally, are
covered with a few months' worth of yellowed nespapers, and there is a
small kitchen to the south.

Victor remains strapped to the bed, and there is a message written above
the headboard.

> i

You are carrying: a paintbrush, a jagged blade.

Victor emits a small, pitiful sound, probably no more than a breath
brushing against his vocal chords -- he ate his own tongue months ago.

> x paintbrush

Victor hardly made a whimper when you severed his index finger, and the
hair was freely available where it had fallen from his head. Attaching
them took more staples than you expected, but it is now makes a fairly
versatile paintbrush.


--

Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
pursuing the interactive experience?

Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

-- Russ

Roger Giner-Sorolla

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Hey, uh, but "John's Fire Witch" already has a puzzle based on the deadly
sins.
^
|
|
JOKE

It's interesting, actually. I've been contemplating a game idea involving
the sins as well. Except the player has to actually commit them... It's
rather a metaphysical game ... and very much vaporware, at the moment.

Let me answer your question with another question: how many novels exist
that are written from the point of view of a wholly twisted psychopath
like the one in "Seven"? And when they are written, what makes them work?

Two more cents: in IF, when you are actually "committing" the moves, it
would be very hard to identify with the protagonist, unless you are the
kind of person who considers murderous psychological sadism exciting.
It's something more than just being "along for the ride" (as in The
Tell-Tale Heart, A Clockwork Orange, etc.)

Roger Giner-Sorolla New York University, New York, NY
gi...@xp.psych.nyu.edu Dept. of Psychology (Social/Personality)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
This scholar, rake, Christian, dupe, gamester, and poet.
David Garrick, "Jupiter and Mercury"


S.I.La...@durham.ac.uk

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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[snip - loads of stuff about 'Seven' the film]

>
>Imagine an interactive text adventure where you are a serial murderer.
[snip excellently well written intro to the adventure]

>
>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
>really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
>would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
>interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
>this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
>pursuing the interactive experience?
>
>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

Well, I'd certainly attempt to. I'm notoriously bad at solving i-f games,
but I'd certainly give it a go. You'd have to be careful; it would be
genuinely disturbing, but that would be its intent. If it wasn't written
with a certain degree of care, it might degenerate from a thriller into a
tacky horror movie. The 'blood and guts' might be an integral part of the
game, but they oughtn't to be cartoonish.
I think (and am assured) that I am twisted enough to write this, but I'm
not good enough at TADS (and I've not tried Inform) to do it. If anyone
else wants to do it, have a go (I haven't really got time now anyway),
and if you want some ideas, feel free to drop me a line and I'll see if I
can think of something nasty.....<g>

Aquarius

"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace." - 'Ronin', Frank Miller.
s.i.la...@durham.ac.uk | http://www.dur.ac.uk/~d4f8bu/ | Mail for PGP key
"I do believe in God. And the only think that scares me is Kaiser Sosek."-TUS

--
"The grand plan that is Aquarius proceeds apace." - 'Ronin', Frank Miller.
s.i.la...@durham.ac.uk | http://www.dur.ac.uk/~d4f8bu/ | Mail for PGP key
"I do believe in God. And the only think that scares me is Kaiser Sosek."-TUS

Magnus Olsson

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <318E55...@earthlink.net>,
Russell L. Bryan <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:

[unspeakably revolting game intro snipped]

>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
>really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
>would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
>interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
>this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
>pursuing the interactive experience?
>
>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

Moral matters aside, I would throw the game away in disgust after
reading the introduction.

I find reading a traditional, third-person narrative of this kind (or
watching it on film or TV) sufficiently disturbing. Experiencing it
through they eyes of the protagonist - and having to identify with
this monster - would be just too much, thank you. This has nothing to
do with morals, just empathy.

And the thought of playing it as a *game* is just utterly revolting.
The very idea makes me sick.

Excuse me - I have to go and throw up.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Magnus Olsson

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the
proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.

And why stop at sadistic serial killers? Why not a game where the
protagonist is a serial rapist? Or a concentration camp guard? Why
not "BOSNIA - An Interactive War Crime"?

Now I'm *really* feeling sick to the stomach.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

RobRachel

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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> Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

Simply put -- no.

To be an observer (a la movie, book, tv) is one thing. To type "disembowel
sally with ice pick" in order to win is quite another.


L.J. Wischik

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Russell L. Bryan <russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>[Game where you play a serial killer]

>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

What a remarkable idea!
I wouldn't play it at all, I think.

But the idea of the voices in your head sounds very interesting. Are there
any games around that explore various kinds of mental illness?

- I suppose that schizophrenia would be easiest, perhaps communicating, as
you suggested, plot devices or actions. Maybe even the voices-in-the-head
of the main character could be those commands that the user types in.
Wonderful! Rather than having a second-person description, you could have
a third-person character controlled by the voices in his head, which come
from you, the person sitting at the computer screen.

- Psychosis could be interesting.

- The view of a psycopath could be communicated just by the representation
of NPCs as cardboard cut-outs rather than real characters. (But perhaps
you play psychopaths in most text adventures already).

- Manic depression could be communicated by having, say, five descriptions
for every single object. Which description is used, depends on the mood
you are in. Sometimes, certain actions are impossible in particular moods.
Moods cycle up and down over time, but particular events might cause
extremes of mood. (So would not taking your medicine regularly).

- Obsessive compulsive disorders. (Such as picking up every item you see,
no matter how relevant it is!)

I guess that, arguably, just about all existing text adventures have the
main character in some kind of mental illness. It would be interesting:
for in a mental illness, you are no longer in full control of yourself
but rather have restrictions forced upon you by your illness; and in a
text adventure there are restrictions forced on the character by what is
achievable in the game that has been written, and what the user commands.

--
Lucian

Brian J Parker

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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I have no doubt I'd download it and try it. I'd play though the intro.
I don't know if I could finish it, though.

I'm not going to sermonize or philosophize here, but I think we all have
evil inside of us, and I think it's better to explore and understand that
half of us than to ignore it.

Now, I wouldn't play a graphical version, and (I've never seen Seven) I
might not finish the text version. My stomach, and my soul, has its
limits. It'd be interesting to see just how much I could take, though.

Cheers,

--
Brian J. Parker : | VOX (home): (412) 688-0171
Student Technical Analyst | VOX (work): (412) 624-2977
and Black-Clad Cliche | WEB: [http://www.pitt.edu/~bjpst6]
Rosetta Stone Home Page: [http://www.pitt.edu/~bjpst6/rosettastone]

Christopher E. Forman

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Magnus Olsson <m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
: Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the

: proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
: and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
: dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
: long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
: as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.

No doubt. Games like "Mortal Kombat XXVIII" achieve popularity for this
exact reason.

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html
Vote I-F in 1996! Visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~jojo/pcgames.html for info!

DAVID JINKS

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Magnus Olsson wrote:

> I find reading a traditional, third-person narrative of this kind (or
> watching it on film or TV) sufficiently disturbing. Experiencing it
> through they eyes of the protagonist - and having to identify with
> this monster - would be just too much, thank you. This has nothing to
> do with morals, just empathy.
>
> And the thought of playing it as a *game* is just utterly revolting.
> The very idea makes me sick.
>
> Excuse me - I have to go and throw up.

Magnus, thank you for describing your feelings on such a game
because it saved me the trouble of having to state my own sentiments which
run very much parallel to your own. In addition, to expect i-f players to
shed themselves of their humanity when playing this game is just asking too
much.

Dave

Julian Arnold

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <318E55...@earthlink.net>, Russell L. Bryan
<mailto:russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>
[...clip lots of nasty stuff about a game based on a similar concept to the
film "Seven"...]

> Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

Absolutely. I have toyed with the concept of giving the player a repulsive,
unsympathetic character. This is something which I think could be pulled off
brilliantly in the second-person. Players often say how close they felt to
their character, how they felt they were both the player and the character.
Think what fun it would be for the author to say "This person is disgusting.
This person is sick. This person is vile. This person is you."

Jools


Jacob Solomon Weinstein

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:

>Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the
>proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
>and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
>dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
>long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
>as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.

Hold on a moment here. I'm not sure whether or not I'd play such a game,
but providing titillation is not the only reason to write such a game. I
think that a horrifying game could serve a serious moral purpose. (In
fact, it's fortuitous that this topic comes up on the heels of the
discussion about moral IF.)

Consider, for a moment, the film Schindler's List. (Minor
spoilers for the film follow.)


One of the things that made Ralph Feines
character so horrifying was how likeably he was played. In many ways, he
was a sympathetic character--but he was a sympathetic character who did evil
things. One of the lessons of the Holocaust is that the capacity for evil is
within all of us, and by making an evil character at least a little
sympathetic, the movie drove home that point.

Now, a work of IF can provide the ultimate in character sympathy--it can
get you to actually play the role of a character. It would be incredibly
difficult to accomplish, but an exceptionally well-written work of IF
could put you in the role of an evil character, and make you
simultaneously sympathetic with and horrified by him. If the author were
skillful enough, the end result would be to make a statement about the
human capacity for evil.

There are other moral points that could be made by putting the player in
an evil character's shoes. Imagine you're playing a neo-Nazi, and part of
the game involves an NPC letting you get away with some small act of
bigotry. As an IF player who is trained to win games, you would, in some
small corner of your brain, be delighted that you got away with it. But
another part of you would realize, "My God--this is how excited a bigot
gets when moral people don't speak up. I have a duty to speak up in real
life." (Again, I'm assuming considerable skill on the part of the author.)

An example of this sort of thing in non-interactive literature is Crime
and Punishment. One part of us wants the protagonist to escape
punishment; another part wants him to be caught. It makes for a far more
effective work than if the criminal were simply a minor supporting character.

Now all we need to do is find the Dostoyevsky of IF.

-Jacob

Brad O`Donnell

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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Funnily enough, I just watched se7en for the first time a
couple days ago, so the ideas presented by "SE7EN: the text adventure"
are fairly fresh in my mind.
Here`s the problem:
Every so often, I hear people saying that they would like to
play a game where they were the bad guy. Whenever such a game comes
into existence, it is snapped up by both my friends and myself. (What
can I say, we're sick little SOBs...)
But these games are no good. Never have I played one where the
game doesn't fizzle out after the first two crimes, nor have I played
such a game to completion.
The reason, I think, has to do with the perception of bad-guys
in all entertainment media, not just IF. Normally, the BG (bad-guy) is
presented as a cardboard cut-out, a person with no apparent motive for
what he's doing except to cause trouble for the protagonist of the
story. Usually, the BG is presented as a madman, just to make his
actions easier to swallow. The BG doesn't have to eat, sleep, or phone
his mom in Vancouver--Hey, why should he have a mother at all? Or any
relatives, or responsibilities, a job as anything but a figurehead?
The BG is stripped of his personality so that he can make life
interesting for the protagonist. This, in and of itself, is fine for a
run-of-the-mill game. But the life of a cardboard cutout with no mother
just doesn't make for good gaming.
It would be nice, though, to see a game where the player assumed
the role of a criminal who actually had a LIFE, outside of his criminal
element. Give the player goals in this real life, which he can/must
support through "immoral activities", and that should solve the problem
of identifying with the BG nicely.

In my head there exists a rant about how society shouldn't judge
morality simply based on legality. . . but I'll save it, and you'll
thank me.


--"Never do today what someone will pay you to do
tommorrow."

Julian Arnold

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <4mn9nu$5...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson

<mailto:m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
> Moral matters aside, I would throw the game away in disgust after
> reading the introduction.
>
> I find reading a traditional, third-person narrative of this kind (or
> watching it on film or TV) sufficiently disturbing. Experiencing it
> through they eyes of the protagonist - and having to identify with
> this monster - would be just too much, thank you. This has nothing to
> do with morals, just empathy.
>
> And the thought of playing it as a *game* is just utterly revolting.
> The very idea makes me sick.
>
> Excuse me - I have to go and throw up.

Hmm, I posted a pro-this game article a bit earlier, just before I went out.
When I came back, I read Magnus's 2 responses and reread Russ's example. So here's a more considered reply:

To some extent, I agree with Magnus. Perhaps this sort of subject matter
(and certainly Magnus's other examples) would be too much for an IF, where
the player/reader _is_ the protagonist.

Of course, there is often a very fine line between art (or whatever you want
to call it) and exploitation, and perhaps given this sort of subject matter
it would be more difficult for the IF author not to err on the wrong side of
this line than for the traditional F author.

I still think it would be a fascinating "game" in which the character had
morals which were utterly opposed to those of the player. Perhaps though
this would need to be tackled in a more subtle, less offensive manner than
casting the player as a serial killer. For instance, my barely-started game
was inspired by "Last Exit to Brooklyn". Specifically the characters and
events of part V (I think), "Strike". I gave up on this though because I
decided that I couldn't write well enough to pull it off. Now nothing in
"Strike" is in quite the same league as a "Seven"-type story (I haven't seen
the film), and for this type of story the problems I faced in my efforts
would be greatly magnified. Basically, it would have to be written
_extremely_ well.

OTOH, I think that in some ways the IF player is comparable to an actor more
than to a traditional reader. Now many very accomplished actors have played
morally reprehensible characters. For example, Anthony Hopkins (Silence of
the Lambs), Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet), and Robert De Niro (Cape Fear). I
don't think it's reasonable to assume these people are sick'n'twisted because
of the roles they have taken. Neither is it reasonable to assume the same of
IF players because of the games they play.

Anyway, as for a "Seven" IF, I know I wouldn't be able to write it, and I
very much doubt if it could be written in the conventional style of IF games.
I would, however, be extremely interested to see someone else's attempt at
tackling this. It wouldn't be fun to play, but then that (hopefully)
wouldnn't be the point.

Jools


Matthew Daly

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <318E55...@earthlink.net> russ...@earthlink.net writes:
>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
>really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
>would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
>interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
>this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
>pursuing the interactive experience?
>
>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
>-- Russ

No, but I have a low tolerance for goriness.

That being said, I would like to mention a similar idea that I've
had for some time. Obviously, you're familiar with the Infocom
mystery series: Deadline, Witness, and Suspect. As the series
progressed, you became more and more embroiled in the murder
itself, from a reporter covering the murder the next day to
someone who had seen a killing to someone who the prime suspect
in a murder.

While these were all excellent games, I think that Infocom
left out the fourth and most compelling installment of the
series ... Assassin. It would be interesting to see a game
like you describe, where you have to plan to murder someone
so as not to be caught. I could envision that you're given
enough tools to be able to commit the crime in several
different ways; one in which it appears that the victim
committed suicide, one in which an enemy of the victim is
framed, perhaps one in which a total innocent is implicated....

The morality of murder aside, committing The Perfect Murder
seems to me to be a tantalizing non-linear IF vehicle.
But, for me to play it, the language would have to be
about as tame as it was in Witness and Suspect.

(Actually, upon reflection, I guess that one of the
vignettes in Border Zone had you commit a murder in a
curious manner in order to cast misdirection.)

-Matthew Daly

Kenneth Fair

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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I feel psychic. I had just two weeks ago thought about writing a "game"
where you take on the role of an international terrorist.

I wasn't sure how to go with it, though. Should the PC be constrained in
his actions (like White, in "Jigsaw")? Or should it be more open ended,
with the player making more choices? Should there be justification for
the actions of the PC, or should it be left to the PC to craft them?
How evil is the evil? How much exploration, even excusing, of the
PC's motivations should there be?

One could go the "mad scientist" route with this. Your objective could
be to take over/blow up the world, but it could be done in a campy,
lighthearted way.

It'd definitely be difficult to do this believably, no matter what.

--
KEN FAIR - U. Chicago Law | <http://student-www.uchicago.edu/users/kjfair>
Of Counsel, U. of Ediacara | Power Mac! | CABAL(tm) | I'm w/in McQ - R U?
When you go for a job interview, I think a good thing to ask is if
they ever press charges.

tv's Spatch

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <kjfair-0705...@uchinews.uchicago.edu>,

Kenneth Fair <kjf...@midway.uchicago.edu> wrote:
>
>One could go the "mad scientist" route with this. Your objective could
>be to take over/blow up the world, but it could be done in a campy,
>lighthearted way.

Laboratory cage
Your living quarters are sparse at best, but they're comfortable and, for
the most part, adequate enough for your world domination needs. Even so,
the thin metal bars and the oft-picked lock on the door prove no match
for you when the need arises. Other than that, you get a handful of
alfalfa pellets and new water each day, and life couldn't be better.

Pinky, your laboratory cagemate, is running aimlessly on the exercise wheel.

You also see a large bottle, a mouse-sized chalkboard, and an exercise
wheel (containing Pinky) here.

Pinky stops his running long enough to ask, "Gee, Brain, what do you feel
like doing tonight?"

>ANSWER "SAME THING WE DO EVERY NIGHT ... TRY TO TAKE OVER THE WORLD!"

(to Pinky)
Pinky says, "Narf!"

- spatch, the characters of pinky and the brain are owned and copyrighted by
warner brothers, yadda yadda yadda, i'd never use 'em in a game
anyhow unless i changed their names slightly like in toonesia,
yadda yadda yadda, you get the idea. -

--
tv's Spatch, MSTie #43790 and bastard spawn of Norman Rockwell
Pick Up The Phone Booth and Die: http://www.javanet.com/~spatula/booth.html
Do you sing like Olive Oyl on purpose?
You guys must be into the Eurythmics. - TMBG

Magnus Olsson

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May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
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In article <4mo1jn$k...@alcor.usc.edu>,

Jacob Solomon Weinstein <jwei...@alcor.usc.edu> wrote:
>m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) writes:
>
>>Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the
>>proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
>>and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
>>dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
>>long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
>>as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.
>
>Hold on a moment here. I'm not sure whether or not I'd play such a game,
>but providing titillation is not the only reason to write such a game.

Of course not. I didn't mean to imply that it was.

>I
>think that a horrifying game could serve a serious moral purpose. (In
>fact, it's fortuitous that this topic comes up on the heels of the
>discussion about moral IF.)

(...)

>Now, a work of IF can provide the ultimate in character sympathy--it can
>get you to actually play the role of a character. It would be incredibly
>difficult to accomplish, but an exceptionally well-written work of IF
>could put you in the role of an evil character, and make you
>simultaneously sympathetic with and horrified by him. If the author were
>skillful enough, the end result would be to make a statement about the
>human capacity for evil.

This is true. And all this brings up the old discussion that is
repeated again and again when it comes to artful depictions of sex and
violence: to which extents can an artist go in graphically describing such
matters? The common answer is of course "to any extent, as long as
it's artistically merited".

Now, in principle I can agree with that. However, I'm not so sure that
there should be no exceptions. For example, can child pronography ever
be artistically motivated? Would you play a game where you have to
rape a number of six-year-old girls to "win"?


But the question in hand was not whether Russ Bryan's hypothetical
game would be art or not. The question was whether I would play it.
The answer is most emphatically *not*. And this is not for any
abstract moral reasons that I would have been taught in school. It's
because already the introduction made me physically ill.


I *could* probably play a game that put me in the shoes of a serial
killer. I *have* played lots of games where the object is to kill
people - my character in an ongoing Shadowrun role-playing campaign
has killed at least five people already, and not just in self defence
- but those games are far less graphic, and much more stylized.

So what I find disgusting about the Russ' example is not the killing.
It's the level of detail, and the sadistic glee with which the initial
scene is described.

And the comparison with "Crime and Punishment" is absurd. Throughout
that work, it is very clear what Dostoyevsky's views on murder are;
while you are supposed to empathize with Raskolnikov, you're never
supposed to - and never in danger of - identifying with him to the
extent that you actually think murder is right. When Raskolnikov
murders the old woman, we pity her, and we pity him; we empathize with
him and we feel his anxiety, all the time knowing - as he does - that
what he does is utterly wrong. Dostoyecsky is a moralist and his moral
stand permeates the entire work.

I can detect nothing of that, however, in Russ' text. Instead, I found
myself identifying with the killer not just in his actions but in his
feelings. It's as if I'm not just supposed to experience the utmost level of
human degradation, but I'm supposed to enjoy it.

Now, this particular piece of writing was probably done to be as
provocative as possible; to really make a point (and it does succeed
very well in making it). If it hadn't been for that, I'd have thought
the author was either more than a little bit sadistic himself, or very
very callous. (No, I'm not falling into the old trap of indetifying
the views of a character with the views of the author; I'm speaking
about inferring the views of the author - or his ability to hide his
true views, the "callousness" I'm referring to - from the way the
characters' views are presented).

Finally, let me stress that I'm not denying that a text like Russ' (or
a even a game like his hypothetical game) can have artistic qualities
that justify its gruesomeness. It's possible that it can bring
catharsis to some people.

But Russ was asking about my personal reactions, and my personal
reactions consist of nothing but revulsion.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

John Baker

unread,
May 7, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/7/96
to

In <318E55...@earthlink.net> "Russell L. Bryan"

<russ...@earthlink.net> writes:
>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this
>game really can't be written), but if you were to find it at
>ftp.gmd.de, would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the
>morality of interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in
>a game like this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter
>keep you from pursuing the interactive experience?
>
>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?

I tend to not like movies or books where I don't like the protagonist.
In fact, the only exception so far has been 'Hocus Pocus' by Vonnegut.
In a work of IF, I think the bond between protagonist and reader/player
is even stronger. Even the introduction material that came with
Infidel was enough of a turn-off for me that I didn't end up playing
the game until much later.

I don't think that I would hate the game you describe, but I wouldn't
have any interest in playing it either.
--
John Baker
"What the hell does that mean? Huh? 'China is here.'?
I don't even know what the hell that means!"
- Jack Burton

Darryl....@waterloo.attgis.com

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
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>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
>really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
>would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
>interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
>this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
>pursuing the interactive experience?
>
>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
>-- Russ

I found this post disturbing enough. I don't think that I could do it. But
it might be very interesting to try a lesser crime. An i-f game where you
must pull off the perfect heist could be very interesting.

Darryl

Roger Giner-Sorolla

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
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Speaking of murders, there's the one you commit near the beginning of
"Jigsaw"...

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> writes:

> I still think it would be a fascinating "game" in which the character had
> morals which were utterly opposed to those of the player. Perhaps though
> this would need to be tackled in a more subtle, less offensive manner than
> casting the player as a serial killer.

I see where this is headed .. a game where you have to pirate all the
Infocom titles and offer them for free on a newsgroup ... :)

> For instance, my barely-started game was inspired by "Last Exit to
> Brooklyn". Specifically the characters and events of part V (I think),
> "Strike". I gave up on this though because I decided that I couldn't
> write well enough to pull it off. Now nothing in "Strike" is in quite the
> same league as a "Seven"-type story (I haven't seen the film), and for
> this type of story the problems I faced in my efforts would be greatly
> magnified. Basically, it would have to be written _extremely_ well.

Oof, I'm re-reading Last Exit for about the 5th time. That would be a
very hard game to write. Although an interesting one, in which you'd
"win" by following repressed lusts to your own inevitable destruction.
Kind of hard to build cute puzzles into that kind of story, though...

There's also something about Faulkner's The Sound and the Fury that I feel
is IF-game-like, especially the chapter set at Harvard. Perhaps it's the
fact that the novel itself, with all its different and unexplained shifts
of time and point of view, is a kind of puzzle, where you have to figure
out the secrets of the Compson family (along with some red herrings --
like the male Quentin's thoughts of incest). For this reason, I think
Toni Morrison's Song of Solomon, another family discovery novel (but one
told from a single POV) would make a good model for a more "fictionish"
kind of IF.

How about a game where it's a given you are going to commit suicide, but
you win it by learning as much about yourself as possible, and dying as
nobly as you can? (Shades of Quentin Compson again...)

Philistinically yours,

Tesla-10

unread,
May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
to

Russell L. Bryan (russ...@earthlink.net) wrote:
:
: --

:
: Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
: right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
: really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
: would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
: interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
: this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
: pursuing the interactive experience?
:
: Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
:
Usually when a author writes from the perspective of an anti-hero e.g.

Jack of Shadows (Zelazny)
Aygar (Brust)

the more distasteful of the protagionists actions are committed off stage
or are glossed over. The protagonists usually have reasons or rationalization
for what they do and they usually make some redeming action at the end of the
book. And often their victims are unsavory or unsympathetic characters. Also
the if the anti-hero profits from his/her ill deeds it is usually only in
staving off the looming disaster or surviving a little longer. Often the
protagonists victories tastes bitter in his/her mouth, the cost outwaying
the reward.

In IF empathy with the protagonist is even more important. By painting a
scene of graphic violence and making the reader responsable you are going
to lose anyone with a ounce of empathy.

A better approach would be to conceal from the true extend of the protagonists
crimes by blackout, loss of memory, or filtering events through the characters
rationalizations, then as the player starts to realized the truth cast things
in terms of an imediate threat to survival, a phyric victory or fighting a
even greater evil. Finally allowing the player to atone by making a
sacrafice perhap by giving up the goal the player though she/he was working
toward perhap by laying down the characters life.

I am not sure that even this would work. The player might feel cheated or tricked
as the story unfolds. Has anyone tried a anti-hero protagonist
in IF? It would be risky and difficult to do well, but the very difficulty makes
it more interesting.

Another approach could be the "Eyes of Laura Mars" route. Hint that the protagonalist
is really the killer and the visions are flashbacks before revealling that the visions
are psychic after all and someone else is responsable for the killings.

Geoff Burns


Andrew C. Plotkin

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
to

robr...@aol.com (RobRachel) writes:
> > Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
> Simply put -- no.
>
> To be an observer (a la movie, book, tv) is one thing. To type "disembowel
> sally with ice pick" in order to win is quite another.

Did anyone throw up after they killed the troll with the elvish sword?

Didn't think so.

--Z

"And Aholibamah bare Jeush, and Jaalam, and Korah: these were the borogoves..."

Andrew C. Plotkin

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
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da...@PPD.Kodak.COM (Matthew Daly) writes:
> That being said, I would like to mention a similar idea that I've
> had for some time. Obviously, you're familiar with the Infocom
> mystery series: Deadline, Witness, and Suspect. As the series
> progressed, you became more and more embroiled in the murder
> itself, from a reporter covering the murder the next day to
> someone who had seen a killing to someone who the prime suspect
> in a murder.
>
> While these were all excellent games, I think that Infocom
> left out the fourth and most compelling installment of the
> series ... Assassin. It would be interesting to see a game
> like you describe, where you have to plan to murder someone
> so as not to be caught.

The fifth game would have been called "Victim".

bout...@razor.wcc.govt.nz

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May 8, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/8/96
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In article <Dr2GJ...@attwat.Waterloo.ATTGIS.COM>, Darryl....@Waterloo.attgis.com writes:
>>Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
>>right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
>>really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
>>would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
>>interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
>>this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
>>pursuing the interactive experience?
>>
>>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>>
>>-- Russ
>
>I found this post disturbing enough. I don't think that I could do it. But
>it might be very interesting to try a lesser crime. An i-f game where you
>must pull off the perfect heist could be very interesting.
>
>Darryl

Alternately, I probably would play it (although I think the serial killer bit
has been done to death (oops) in other media). I don't think adult themes
should be kept out of IF, so long as they are appropriately signposted for
those folks who find them disturbing. You're right that it would need to be
well written to carry it off (excessive violence in 'detective', anybody?) or
else you'll turn it into a joke.

Serial killers aside, there are many roads that fiction has travelled down that
IF has yet to, or has yet too successfully. The 'jokey' aspect of IF has been
partially responsible for that, IMO. Ultimately, if you feel the urge to write
something along those lines, ask yourself if you really have something to say
within the 'adult' format - if you don't, and you're just using it for
gratuitous effect, the result will be a lesser work scarcely worth the time of
its implementation. If you do - express it, and use whatever tools you feel
necessary. The right audience will find it, in time. Maybe. Or they'll lynch
you. Whichever :) In any event - writing should be from the inside out - not
the other way around.

-tangle


Aquarius

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
: Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the

: proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
: and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
: dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
: long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
: as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.

: And why stop at sadistic serial killers? Why not a game where the


: protagonist is a serial rapist? Or a concentration camp guard? Why
: not "BOSNIA - An Interactive War Crime"?

: Now I'm *really* feeling sick to the stomach.

I'm going to assume that that (at least some of it) was sarcasm. I don't
justify this idea for an i-f game by calling it art, but neither would I
write it so that a sick 12-year-old with dominator fantasies could get
his rocks off by playing it. I understand (or at least I'm trying to)
your revulsion for this idea - it's not a pleasant concept in the
slightest. But I considerably doubt that anyone writing this would treat
it quite as insensitively as you imply.
Would you be opposed to a game where you had to escape from a
concentration camp? That would contain scenes as graphic, but from the
other end, as it were. Looking back on this idea, I'm not convinced it
could actually be written (anyone with a reasonable understanding of how
to write decent if games is at liberty to contradict me) since I'm not
sure how you make the players goals open to them. Voices in the head? I
can see nothing wrong really with the introduction of psychoses to a
game; I just can't really see how this would be implemented.

Incidentally, if the tone of this post comes across as flame, I sincerely
apologise. I was just trying to put my point - if you disagree, fine; if
you think I'm just out to annoy, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to.

Aquarius

Brian J Parker

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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In article <YlYBI7C00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,

Andrew C. Plotkin <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:

>Did anyone throw up after they killed the troll with the elvish sword?
>
>Didn't think so.

Actually, if I can digress (and put my enthusiasm for playing a psycho
killer game in perspective)...

I remember playing Zork... the second time or something, I was really
young and naive... and I knocked the troll out. I took his axe and
decided to show him the mercy he didn't show me, see what would happen.
He woke up, started begging for mercy, I went to leave the room...

... and he still blocked the way out. (Big surprise, eh?)

Eventually, I had to kill the poor defenseless thing. I was really
pissed off at the game designer for not allowing me to be merciful.

Helen

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
to

In article <318E55...@earthlink.net> "Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net> writes:

> From: "Russell L. Bryan" <russ...@earthlink.net>
> Newsgroups: rec.arts.int-fiction
> Date: Mon, 06 May 1996 19:40:26 +0000
> Organization: Earthlink Network, Inc.
> Reply-To: russ...@earthlink.net
>
> --


>
> Now, here's the question. I don't think I'm quite twisted enough to
> right a game like this (and remember, due to copyright issues, this game
> really can't be written), but if you were to find it at ftp.gmd.de,
> would you play it? We have been chatting a lot about the morality of
> interactive fiction, but what place would morality have in a game like
> this? Would the moral repugnance of the subject matter keep you from
> pursuing the interactive experience?
>
> Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
> -- Russ

Sure, why not ? I hate it when the author tries to impose moral
restrictments on the player, like , for example, in Return to Zork
when the player is punished even for such innocent acts as
reading a private note or taking a package without permission.

It is important though that the game will not become a collection
of sadistic scenes without any plot or puzzles (which will possibly
appeal to some kinds of people)

Also it could be nice to have different plot branches so you are
not forced to commit the crime you don't like (I would gladly
murder a child or two, but other people might find it annoying...)

Helen


Message has been deleted

athol-brose

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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>>>Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>>>-- Russ
>>I found this post disturbing enough. I don't think that I could do it. But
>>it might be very interesting to try a lesser crime. An i-f game where you
>>must pull off the perfect heist could be very interesting.
>>Darryl
>Alternately, I probably would play it (although I think the serial killer bit
>has been done to death (oops) in other media). I don't think adult themes
>should be kept out of IF, so long as they are appropriately signposted for
>those folks who find them disturbing. You're right that it would need to be
>well written to carry it off (excessive violence in 'detective', anybody?) or
>else you'll turn it into a joke.

I'm surprised that noone yet has mentioned "Dreamweb", the game where
you DO play a serial killer. It's a graphic (no pun intended)
adventure game --- basic premise: you hear voices in your head (and
later see visions) telling you that six (seven?) people must die
before the c*b*l they have put together can construct the Dreamweb and
destroy the world (or something like that).

Spoilers...

I've only played the first half of the game (am planning to pick it up
again since I just got a new computer, yeehah), but you have to
shoot/axe/hit many people to get even that far -- even one that was an
innocent bystander (which was a very hard choice for me). Getting
everything just right is a bit tricky -- you need to be able to escape
after each killing.

The game is quite creepy and moody, and asks a question, but it may
not be the *right* question: are you insane? Could you, as the
character, be insane? Or should you always believe all of your sensory
input?

And, actually...

...my first planned IF competition entr had something to do with this
concept... what would you do if you found that, while not in control
of yourself, you were committing terrible murders?

The game fell to undecisiveness about it's general implementation. I
wasn't sure of how to handle the character's "episodes". It still may
become a game that sees the light of day...I just have to resolve my
own questions about the game's structure.


--
r. n. dominick -- cinn...@one.net -- http://w3.one.net/~cinnamon/
<*> Remember the time I saw a seagull fly out of your lips?
if keys are all that stand between, can i throw in the ring?

Aquarius

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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Roger Giner-Sorolla (gi...@xp.psych.nyu.edu) wrote:

: Let me answer your question with another question: how many novels exist
: that are written from the point of view of a wholly twisted psychopath
: like the one in "Seven"? And when they are written, what makes them work?

American Psycho was. That was good, although the violence is
stomach-churning in places. Interestingly, the author, Brett Easton
Ellis, makes the violence fit in to the book adequately; in no place does
it seem out of order for Patrick Bateman (the title character) to commit
such acts. From a removed point of view, one might claim that the
violence is gratituous, but I think that someone who claims that hasn't
understood the whole point of the book, which is to show Bateman's
hypocrisy in a graphic manner.
And then again, possibly I'm just a pathetic literary critic. :)

Stephen Granade

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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In article <ant07182...@arnod.demon.co.uk> Julian Arnold
<jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> writes:
> OTOH, I think that in some ways the IF player is comparable to an actor
> more than to a traditional reader. Now many very accomplished actors
> have played morally reprehensible characters. For example, Anthony
> Hopkins (Silence of the Lambs), Dennis Hopper (Blue Velvet), and Robert
> De Niro (Cape Fear). I don't think it's reasonable to assume these
> people are sick'n'twisted because of the roles they have taken. Neither
> is it reasonable to assume the same of IF players because of the games
> they play.

This is an interesting point, and one I've been mulling over for some time
now. I have a (somewhat limited) theatre background, which has made me
wonder about the possibilities of having the IF protagonist as a role for
the player to perform. Do most of us view the protagonist in IF as
ourselves, or is there room to feel that we've stepped into a role, one
which we should play to the best of our ability? If we are locked into the
"we are the protagonist" view, then we limit the possibilities of IF--we
can never progress past what Infocom has already done.

Stephen

--
Stephen Granade | "You fools! Money doesn't put fish
sgra...@phy.duke.edu | on the table! FISH puts fish on
Duke University, Physics Dept | the table!"
| -- Mr. Smartypants, from The Tick

Matthew Daly

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
to

In article <4mrdkg$g...@wanda.phl.pond.com> russ...@wanda.phl.pond.com (Matthew T. Russotto) writes:
>I don't think
>"EAT BODY" or even "SET TABLE. OPEN BOTTLE. POUR WINE. EAT BODY"
>can do justice to "Yes, I served him up with a fine Chianti".

Wine Cellar

You are in beneath your house. To the north is the water meter and a
pile of slightly decomposed bodies. Beside you are stairs that lead
to the main floor of the house. A swinging light is beside you.

There is a bottle of white wine here.
There is a bottle of red wine here.

> TAKE WHITE WINE

Taken.

> U

Dining Room

You are in a formal dining room. Doors lead north and east, and a
dark staircase leads to the wine cellar

There is a body here.
There is a wine glass here.

> OPEN BOTTLE

Opened.

> POUR WINE INTO GLASS

Done.

>EAT BODY

As you start into your meal, you feel dissatisfied that you selected
a white wine to accompany human flesh. You become more despondant
as time goes on, and you find yourself so depressed that you hardly
mind the victim's father busting into your house and riddling your
body with bullets.

You have died.

You have achieved a score of 30 out of a possible 100, giving you
the rank of Menace to Society.


David Fletcher

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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Matthew T. Russotto (russ...@wanda.phl.pond.com) wrote:

> A large part of the problem, for the serial killer or international
> terrorist scenario, would be providing a believable opponent. Instead
> of finding clues, you'd have to avoid leaving them, while still
> leaving a "calling card". Or perhaps you couldn't avoid leaving them
> -- one way to do it is to make a no-win game.

You could have a game like this which would be no-win in the sense that
you would always be caught eventually, but committing x number of murders
before you get caught would count as winning. Committing the last one
while the police are surrounding the building, about to break in, would
make for a dramatic endgame.

--

David Fletcher

John Wood

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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David Jinks writes:
> Magnus Olsson wrote:
[His feelings about watching and playing psychopaths]

>
> Magnus, thank you for describing your feelings on such a game
> because it saved me the trouble of having to state my own sentiments which
> run very much parallel to your own. In addition, to expect i-f players to
> shed themselves of their humanity when playing this game is just asking too
> much.

Much as I hate simple "me too" posts, I don't have anything to add and I do
want to register my agreement with Magnus and Dave, so:

Me too.

John


Julian Arnold

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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In article <4mstgv$m...@news.duke.edu>, Stephen Granade

<mailto:sgra...@scratchy.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>
> In article <ant07182...@arnod.demon.co.uk> Julian Arnold
> <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> writes:
> > OTOH, I think that in some ways the IF player is comparable to an actor
> > more than to a traditional reader...

>
> This is an interesting point, and one I've been mulling over for some time
> now. I have a (somewhat limited) theatre background, which has made me
> wonder about the possibilities of having the IF protagonist as a role for
> the player to perform. Do most of us view the protagonist in IF as
> ourselves, or is there room to feel that we've stepped into a role, one
> which we should play to the best of our ability?

I try to approach this as I imagine an actor might approach a role-- the
character is a role for me to perform, but while I am performing that role I
am that character. The problem is very few (if any) games have a character
well enough defined for this approach to really work or be demanded.

Well, perhaps that's not quite true, "Christminster's" Christabel had some
definition, as I guess did "PTF's" Aerin and "Legend's" Gavin Kelly. The
thing is, these characters are still pretty unchallenging "goodys". They
have no real depth or complexity, and are in many ways no more than the
generic adventurer/everyman, but with a first (and last) name. (This is not
a flame!)

> If we are locked into the "we are the protagonist" view, then we limit the
> possibilities of IF--we can never progress past what Infocom has already
> done.

True.

Jools


Magnus Olsson

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
to

In article <YlYBI7C00...@andrew.cmu.edu>,
Andrew C. Plotkin <erky...@CMU.EDU> wrote:
>robr...@aol.com (RobRachel) writes:
>> To be an observer (a la movie, book, tv) is one thing. To type "disembowel
>> sally with ice pick" in order to win is quite another.
>
>Did anyone throw up after they killed the troll with the elvish sword?
>
>Didn't think so.

My first reaction to Andrew's comment was "don't be silly".

However, the question is rather deep.

I didn't actually throw up when reading Russ' "Seven" intro, but I was
just being a little bit hyperbolic: it did actually make me feel
physically ill and I felt distrubed by it for the rest of the day.
Feelings not too dissimilar, I should think, to what I'd felt if I'd
actually witnessed a killing.

On the other hand, when killing the troll in "Zork" I just felt a sense
of accomplishment. No guilt at all. It can't just be that I'm acting in
self defence.

One reason for the different reactions is of course the way the
killing is described, but I don't think that's the only reason.
Somehow, in Zork there is not just suspension of disbelief, but a
"suspension of morality" that enables the player not just to kill the
troll and the thief without qualms, but also to steal every object
that's not nailed down.

I must confess, though, that I didn't feel good about killing the
Wizard of Frobozz in "Zork II". I was very relieved when I found that
there is a way to defeat him without killing him.


And to return to what I think Andrew meant with his slightly flippant
remark: Whether it would feel OK to have to "disembowel Sally with ice
pick" in a game would depend _very much_ on the way the game was
written, the way Sally was presented, and so on.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Christopher E. Forman

unread,
May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
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Brian J Parker <bjp...@pitt.edu> wrote:
: I remember playing Zork... the second time or something, I was really

: young and naive... and I knocked the troll out. I took his axe and
: decided to show him the mercy he didn't show me, see what would happen.
: He woke up, started begging for mercy, I went to leave the room...
: ... and he still blocked the way out. (Big surprise, eh?)

The Solid Gold version fixed this problem, allowing players to pass the
troll once he was disarmed. (If I remember right.)

--
C.E. Forman cef...@rs6000.cmp.ilstu.edu
Read the I-F e-zine XYZZYnews, at ftp.gmd.de:/if-archive/magazines/xyzzynews,
or on the Web at http://www.interport.net/~eileen/design/xyzzynews.html
Vote I-F in 1996! Visit http://www.xs4all.nl/~jojo/pcgames.html for info!

Paul J. Furio

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May 9, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/9/96
to

Yeah, Seven, heh.

This was the most disturbing movie I ever saw, and perhaps one of my
favorites (due to storyline, execution, cinematography which was
FANTASTIC, etc.) of all time.

Now writing IF around this: I don't think it was the gore that really
made SE7EN so shocking, it was the ideas behind it: That John Doe
could, would, and did have the patience to bind a man for a year, to
feed a fat man to death (although it was the kick to the distended
stomach that killed him), to destroy two lives by forcing a man to kill
a whore the way that he did (which i don't want to go into), and so
forth. And at the same time, the driving point that the crimes were so
meticulous and well planned that Morgan Freeman's character was corrent
in realizing that nothing could be done, they were just "picking up the
pieces afterwards, cataloguing and photographing the evidence in the
hope that it might appear in court someday."

I would play a game based on this, if I had the choice of being either
the Detective or the Criminal. And good IF writing could make the
player believe that in either role, they were doing the "right" thing.
The point might be that the world is helpless, or that anyone is
capable of what is called "evil", but that would be up to the designer
to determine...

Maybe i'll start on this... :)

-PJF


rich...@msi-uk.com

unread,
May 10, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/10/96
to

In article <4msio5$2...@mercury.dur.ac.uk>, Aquarius says...

>
>Roger Giner-Sorolla (gi...@xp.psych.nyu.edu) wrote:
>
>: Let me answer your question with another question: how many novels exist
>: that are written from the point of view of a wholly twisted psychopath
>: like the one in "Seven"? And when they are written, what makes them work?
>
>American Psycho was. That was good, although the violence is
>stomach-churning in places. Interestingly, the author, Brett Easton
>Ellis, makes the violence fit in to the book adequately; in no place does
>it seem out of order for Patrick Bateman (the title character) to commit
>such acts. From a removed point of view, one might claim that the
>violence is gratituous, but I think that someone who claims that hasn't
>understood the whole point of the book, which is to show Bateman's
>hypocrisy in a graphic manner.

not just bateman's hypocrisy, but that of the society which gave rise to him.
there are also some marvellously funny satirical touches: no-one can identify
any of the peripheral characters, for example, since they are literally
faceless -- is this also a satire on fiction?

since no-one else in this thread has mentioned it, ``complicity'' by iain banks
deals with ghastly and fitting murders (similarly to ``se7en''); just like
most i-f, these are narrated in the second person (``you climb through the
window...''), and are interspersed with sections narrated in the first person.
the author uses this technique rather well, with shocking effect at one point.

-- richard

--
_______________________________________________________________________________

richard barnett rich...@msi-uk.com
_______________________________________________________________________________

burn...@lafvax.lafayette.edu

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May 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/12/96
to

I've been following this line of discussion for a while and something just
occured to me. I'm currently working on a game that's meant mostly to be an
in joke among my friends here at college. You see, one of my friends lives in
resident hall that has a reputation form being extreamly unbarable to live in.
So I've taken all of his complaints and desires and put them all in to a game
in which you take revenge upon the inhabitants of this hall. Through out the
game you beat someone to death with a crowbar, feed a person to a leopard,
torture the Resident Advisor with a Voodoo doll and in the end blow the entire
building up. But this is meant to be funny. How does this compare to what has
been said here?

-Jesse Burneko-


Russell L. Bryan

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May 12, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/12/96
to

I love starting threads like this, and then sitting back and watching
opinions being aired, sub-threads being born -- it really demonstrates the
wide variety of interactive fiction fans.

I've been particularly interested to see in this thread where people's
sensitivities lie. Many people have observed that they would have no problem
with the concept of killing men and women (didn't someone even mention
children?) in a piece of interactive fiction, but draw the line at rape or
molestation. That's rather interesting from a sociological perspective, and
it matches my sensitivitiess rather nicely. My moral values are such that in
real life I could never consider commiting any violent crime. The very idea
of my being in a fistfight is ludicrous to me. Yet to my sensibilities,
murder is less of a crime than rape. In fact, I consider rape (molestation
is included in this category) to be the most despicable of crimes against
humanity.

So in response to Magnus's objections concerning "where do we draw the line?"
that is my answer. Genocide is also beyond the capacity of my understanding,
and hence crosses the line -- what depths of ignorance must someone reach
before they decide that any race is unworthy of life? What idiocy makes one
decide that any one characteristic can be shared by every member of a certain
color or creed, or that any such imagined characteristic can be such a threat
as to require the destruction of every owner of that characteristic? I once
saw a film on cable where a game was found on the internet called "Auschwitz
Manager," an arcade game where the goal was to drive prisoners into the
ovens. This is not the type of game I am proposing, and I hope that Magnus
understands this. A game like "Auschwitz Manager" does not deal with moral
issues, it does not spark thought or consideration, it does not help anyone
understand anything.

It's strange -- you can play a board game like Risk or Axis and Allies, or a
war game on your computer, and kill thousands of troops with the roll of the
dice, and the morality issue doesn't sink in. You can watch an action hero
decimate the bad guys, killing fifty men with a single clip, and expect most
of the theater to applaud. They are external experiences -- it's not just
that you know it isn't real, it's also that you don't have to think about it.
Somehow, not thinking about it makes it OK.

I suppose you would have to see Seven to understand what I really am
proposing. In Seven, the shock came not from blood and gore and bodies
dropping from the closet, but from the concepts. The most shocking parts of
the movie were not shocking on the basis of what was shown (we never even get
a good look at the last three victims), but more on the basis of concept. It
was like playing the best of Infocom games -- the real pictures were created
in your mind, and that is what made it so disturbing.

That was the idea behind my original text -- the offhandedness of the
description, the character's blindness to the viciousness of his actions.
Would a simple picture of the "paintbrush" be nearly so disturbing as a
description of the process of stapling the emaciated victim's hairs into his
amputated index finger? The question that MUST be raised in the game that I
am proposing is "What kind of person would do this?" It's scary to think
about, but isn't that one of the reasons these tragedies really go on? You
all must know about the man in Scotland who murdered -- no, rather, who
massacred a gym filled with second-graders and their teachers. The question
that emerged from every story I read about that tragedy is "What kind of man
could do this?" Well, how about a man who had been trying to molest children
all his life and who had a twisted fascination with firearms? The community
KNEW that these were his interests, but they ignored it. They failed to
recognize the risk.

There are certain games I could never write. A text adventure about
Auschwitz? It's a horrifying concept, but in the real world an entire
COUNTRY allowed it to happen. The German civilian population simply refused
to notice what was really happening -- in fact, they were absolutely shocked
when the Allied forces began to bomb their cities. "What kind of people
would do this?" they asked, forgetting the rubble their country had made out
of London. How about a text adventure concerning the decision for America to
drop the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki? History is so much easier to accept
if no one forces you to think about it. We in America remember it as our
victory over Japan, but we achieved that victory by exterminating civilians.
I can not decide if our actions were right or wrong. I want to know what
went through the minds of the men who made that decision. I want those
answers.

But could I play a game based on these issues? No, probably not. I could
read the book, I could watch the movie, but I could NOT play the game. I
could never type the words "rape girl" at a command prompt. I can not
understand rape. I could never type "throw Jew into oven." I do not WANT to
understand these crimes, because no sane person can justify committing them.

But "Seven: The Text Adventure?" Yes, I probably could play that, but I
would not play the whole game. You see, murder is justified all the time in
our society. Some of us will justify it in war (although the new push-button
war of smart bombs and guided missiles has made it more gamelike than
warlike). Hell, thousands of sane, good-natured American men were thrilled
to fight in World War I and II. Some of us justify it with the death penalty
-- an eye for an eye, and so forth. The killer in Seven had justifications,
too, and it all came from several discrepancies in his definition of
"innocence." The victims were not randomly chosen, nor did they come from
one particular racial group. In fact, at the end of the movie, I found that
I loathed Kevin Spacey's character; he disgusted me, but in the end I
understood what he was thinking, and that was the most disturbing aspect of
all. Considering it afterwards, I could not honestly say that the serial
killer was insane.

It's such a complicated issue, filled with contradictions, and I knew this
when I proposed the question. I really don't have a satisfactory answer,
either, for who am I to say that murder is any less a crime than rape? In
truth, I am the least violent man I know -- I have never struck another human
being, even when it might have been justified. As for a game, though? Hell,
I've played Doom and Heretic. I've gleefully wiped out the Bobs in Marathon.

In "Seven: The Text Adventure," I could probably play through the gluttony
murder, and probably those for greed and sloth, as well. There are others,
particularly Pride and Lust, which would probably force me to quit playing.
Is it because I can justify the deaths of men more than the deaths of women?
Are there certain methods of murder which I consider more acceptable than
others? I really can't provide an answer.

Would you play the game? Some have said "No, it's sick!" ("That's completely
immoral") or "No, I'm too squeamish!" ("I don't even want to think about
it"), while others have said "Sure, it'll be fun!" ("It's just a game") or
"Sure, it will enhance my understanding!" ("Maybe I can learn something") or
even "Sure, I can handle it!" ("Nothing bothers me"). I'm going to waffle.
I'll say "Probably, but only to a point," although I can not begin to tell
you where that point might be.

I guess it's the closest thing to a Rorshach Test which interactive fiction
can offer -- there are no right answers, but your answers will speak volumes
about who you are.

-- Russ

<< This message will reference directly to my original message >>

"Forever caught in desert lands, one has to learn to disbelieve the sea."
-- Tony Banks, Genesis

Magnus Olsson

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May 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/13/96
to

In article <4msjen$2...@mercury.dur.ac.uk>,

Aquarius <S.I.La...@durham.ac.uk> wrote:
>Magnus Olsson (m...@marvin.df.lth.se) wrote:
>: Let me add to my previous post that dspite _my_ reaction to the
>: proposed "Seven" game, I'm pretty sure there'd be a market for it -
>: and even more of market for graphical versions, where you can
>: dismember your victims in full, gory, graphic detail. There'd be a
>: long line of perverts and would-be psychos wanting to buy it, as well
>: as an enormous number of teenage boys looking for titillation.
>
>: And why stop at sadistic serial killers? Why not a game where the
>: protagonist is a serial rapist? Or a concentration camp guard? Why
>: not "BOSNIA - An Interactive War Crime"?

>I'm going to assume that that (at least some of it) was sarcasm.

Yes, I was being sarcastic, but not entirely. It's a sad fact that
commercial realities nowadays make authors and producer put far more
graphic violence and sex into their books, films and games than would
be artistically motivated.

>Would you be opposed to a game where you had to escape from a
>concentration camp? That would contain scenes as graphic, but from the
>other end, as it were.

Not in principle, but a game with such a subject would have to be very
well written. There'd be a strong risk of trivializing a very serious
subject. Whizzard discovered how strongly the Vietnam vets reacted to
his idea of a game about 'Nam. Concentration camps is an even more
sensitive subject.

What really made me so upset about the "Seven" example was
not just that the imagery was revolting in itself (which it was) but
the way it made me think of a game where I would be playing a sadistic
psycho and really be made to "enjoy" it just as much as the game
protagonist. I could probably play a serial killer game with a more
detached point of view. With a sufficiently detached view, it could be
made into comedy (albeit a very tasteless one).

The situation with the concentration camp game would be analogous:
depending on the point of view, the degree of flippancy,
trivialization or its revers, and so on, it could be either revolting
or profoundly satisfying. It's up to the author.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Magnus Olsson

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May 13, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/13/96
to

In article <ant09164...@arnod.demon.co.uk>,

Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <4mstgv$m...@news.duke.edu>, Stephen Granade
><mailto:sgra...@scratchy.phy.duke.edu> wrote:
>>
>> In article <ant07182...@arnod.demon.co.uk> Julian Arnold
>> <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> writes:
>> This is an interesting point, and one I've been mulling over for some time
>> now. I have a (somewhat limited) theatre background, which has made me
>> wonder about the possibilities of having the IF protagonist as a role for
>> the player to perform. Do most of us view the protagonist in IF as
>> ourselves, or is there room to feel that we've stepped into a role, one
>> which we should play to the best of our ability?
>
>I try to approach this as I imagine an actor might approach a role-- the
>character is a role for me to perform, but while I am performing that role I
>am that character. The problem is very few (if any) games have a character
>well enough defined for this approach to really work or be demanded.
>
>Well, perhaps that's not quite true, "Christminster's" Christabel had some
>definition, as I guess did "PTF's" Aerin and "Legend's" Gavin Kelly. The
>thing is, these characters are still pretty unchallenging "goodys". They
>have no real depth or complexity, and are in many ways no more than the
>generic adventurer/everyman, but with a first (and last) name. (This is not
>a flame!)

I think there are (at least) three possible relations between the
protagonist and the player:

1) The protagonist is the player. This is the classic approach.
It is as if the player were transported to another world and left to
explore it, and perhaps perform some task. The protagonist is
deliberately left as a blank for the player to fill in.

This doesn't mean that the protagonist will have to behave exactly as
the player would behave in real life - on the contrary, often one of
the points is that different rules apply in the imaginary world, and
part of the appeal of this kind of IF is that it simulates the
experience of being a part of a world where normal rules don't apply.
The last time we had a debate about morality in IF, several people
expressed the view that they enjoyed playing games where they were
unbound by moral considerations, free to kill trolls and to steal
everything in sight.

Of course, the player can choose to do some role-playing, and treat
the protagonist as a role. But that role is entirely invented by the
player and not defined by anything but the player's actions.


2) The player becomes the protagonist. This is perhaps the form of IF that
can most accurately be called "interactive literature" - just like the
reader of a book, the player sees the world through the eyes of a
well-defined character and can do very little about what this person
thinks or feels. Often the game tells the player exactly what the
protagonist thinks and feels, perhaps by the use of entirely
non-interactive "cut scenes".


3) The player plays a well-defined role, like in a play, but has the
freedom to interpret that role as he sees fit, as long as he stays in
character. Perhaps we could call this "interactive theatre", and I
imagine this is what Julian and Stephen are discussing.

Unlike case 1, the player isn't constrained by rules, or the game
saying "you can't do that or the police will arrest you (or whatever),
but by a compulsion to stay in character. The player isn't told what
the protagonist feels or thinks, but is led to do so through his own
actions and by melting into the character.

We haven't seen very much IF of this sort. In fact, I think it will be
very hard to write.


But, of course, this threefold way is a theoretical construct. Most
actual pieces of IF fall somewhere in between, with elements from all
three categories. There are plenty of examples of relatively pure type
1, quite a few 2's (including the middle portion of "Lethe Flow
Phoenix"). It would be very interesting to see a pure type 3 game.


Finally:

>> If we are locked into the "we are the protagonist" view, then we limit the
>> possibilities of IF--we can never progress past what Infocom has already
>> done.
>
>True.

Stuff and nonsense. Unless, of course, you both define "progress"
narrowly as progress along the third path above.

There are lots of other ways in which IF can make progress:
both "literary" advances such as characterization of NPC's, realistic
treatment of human emotions, handling of "difficult" subjects (such as
concentration camps), depth of description, sheer beauty of writing;
and technical advances such as more "intelligent" NPC behaviour,
using other senses than sight, more realistic scoping, and so on.

Of course, Infocom did get far in many of these areas, but claiming
that Infocom represents some pinnacle of IF in all areas except that
of role playing, and that the only way of progressing beyond their
achievements is along the road labeled 3 above, doesn't strike me as
--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

Stephen Granade

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May 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/14/96
to

In article <4n8aog$d...@news.lth.se> m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
writes:
[commentary on types of role-playing snipped]

> Finally:
>
> >> If we are locked into the "we are the protagonist" view, then we
limit the
> >> possibilities of IF--we can never progress past what Infocom has
already
> >> done.
> >
> >True.
>
> Stuff and nonsense. Unless, of course, you both define "progress"
> narrowly as progress along the third path above.

Narrowly? I'm not sure this is such a narrow path. In addition, I think
that there is much progress still to be made along path two. However,
continuing on...

> There are lots of other ways in which IF can make progress:
> both "literary" advances such as characterization of NPC's, realistic
> treatment of human emotions, handling of "difficult" subjects (such as
> concentration camps), depth of description, sheer beauty of writing;
> and technical advances such as more "intelligent" NPC behaviour,
> using other senses than sight, more realistic scoping, and so on.

To me, much of this is window-dressing. Granted, we can improve our
writing, descriptions, and characterization, but there is a limit to what
we can do without changing the framework underneath.

> Of course, Infocom did get far in many of these areas, but claiming
> that Infocom represents some pinnacle of IF in all areas except that
> of role playing, and that the only way of progressing beyond their
> achievements is along the road labeled 3 above, doesn't strike me as

Forgive me if I misconstrue what I (think) you were going to say--your
message was cut off here. I think we need to progress through both 2 and
3, not just 3--you've put a restriction on my arguement which I did not
make. The player as well-defined character with fixed thoughts and
feeling does not need to be as forced as it sounds here. Handled
skillfully, you can be lead to those thoughts and feelings.

I don't claim that Infocom was the pinnacle of IF. However, I *do*
believe that, unless we progress beyond the protagonist as player blank
slate view, we will be unable to make significant artistic progress in IF.

Julian Arnold

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May 14, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/14/96
to

In article <4n8aog$d...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson
<mailto:m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:
>
< [...blahblahblah...]

>
> 3) The player plays a well-defined role, like in a play, but has the
> freedom to interpret that role as he sees fit, as long as he stays in
> character. Perhaps we could call this "interactive theatre", and I
> imagine this is what Julian and Stephen are discussing.

Yes, that is approximately what I meant. Interactive Theatre... :)

> Finally:
>
> >> If we are locked into the "we are the protagonist" view, then we limit the
> >> possibilities of IF--we can never progress past what Infocom has already
> >> done.
> >
> >True.
>
> Stuff and nonsense. Unless, of course, you both define "progress"
> narrowly as progress along the third path above.
>
> There are lots of other ways in which IF can make progress:
> both "literary" advances such as characterization of NPC's, realistic
> treatment of human emotions, handling of "difficult" subjects (such as
> concentration camps), depth of description, sheer beauty of writing;
> and technical advances such as more "intelligent" NPC behaviour,
> using other senses than sight, more realistic scoping, and so on.
>
> Of course, Infocom did get far in many of these areas, but claiming
> that Infocom represents some pinnacle of IF in all areas except that
> of role playing, and that the only way of progressing beyond their
> achievements is along the road labeled 3 above, doesn't strike me as

Errm, strike you as what? "very constructive" perhaps?

No, if I did define progress as narrowly as you suggest it wouldn't be very
constructive. What I meant to imply with my monosyllable was that Stephen is
right, the "we are the protagonist" view (type 1), is an area that future
authors need to address. We are limiting progress if we fail to address
this. Also, we are limiting progress if we fail to address the issues Magnus
has mentioned, and no doubt other issues which no-one has considered yet.
This was a point I was trying to make before in the puzzleless/experimental
IF thread-- we need to consider and experiment with all aspects of IF if we
are to progress.

IOW, "true". :)

(I'm glad Magnus is around to make me think about/explain things a bit more
than I otherwise might. :)

Jools


Cthulhu

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to

In article <4mnik6$k...@newsbf02.news.aol.com>, robr...@aol.com (RobRachel) wrote:
>> Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
>Simply put -- no.

>
>To be an observer (a la movie, book, tv) is one thing. To type "disembowel
>sally with ice pick" in order to win is quite another.

I don't know about anyone else, but I was disturbed by the cruelty to animals
required in Trinity.

<spoiler below>

KILL SKINK and FEED LEMMING TO SNAKE?

Cthulhu

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to

In article <ant07092...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold <jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:
>In article <318E55...@earthlink.net>, Russell L. Bryan
><mailto:russ...@earthlink.net> wrote:
>>
> [...clip lots of nasty stuff about a game based on a similar concept to the
> film "Seven"...]

>
>> Simply put -- would you play it through to its conclusion?
>
>Absolutely. I have toyed with the concept of giving the player a repulsive,
>unsympathetic character. This is something which I think could be pulled off
>brilliantly in the second-person. Players often say how close they felt to
>their character, how they felt they were both the player and the character.
>Think what fun it would be for the author to say "This person is disgusting.
>This person is sick. This person is vile. This person is you."

Sounds like Darkseed II. According to some reviews, one of the messages in
that game is that you won't get far by being like your character.

Kenneth Fair

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to

In article <4n8aog$d...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:


>
>3) The player plays a well-defined role, like in a play, but has the
>freedom to interpret that role as he sees fit, as long as he stays in
>character. Perhaps we could call this "interactive theatre", and I
>imagine this is what Julian and Stephen are discussing.
>
>Unlike case 1, the player isn't constrained by rules, or the game
>saying "you can't do that or the police will arrest you (or whatever),
>but by a compulsion to stay in character. The player isn't told what
>the protagonist feels or thinks, but is led to do so through his own
>actions and by melting into the character.
>
>We haven't seen very much IF of this sort. In fact, I think it will be
>very hard to write.

You might also include a fourth (well, third-and-a-halfth): The player
can slip in and out of character. I'm thinking specifically of
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead".

I would be interested in seeing some attempts at IF where the player
is not the main character. One might argue that the Infocom mysteries
such as Witness made a first step down this path.

--
KEN FAIR - U. Chicago Law | <http://student-www.uchicago.edu/users/kjfair>
Of Counsel, U. of Ediacara | Power Mac! | CABAL(tm) | I'm w/in McQ - R U?
Better not take a dog on the Space Shuttle, because if he sticks his
head out when you're coming home his face might burn up.

Cthulhu

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to

In article <4mnrit$7...@kodak.rdcs.Kodak.COM>, da...@PPD.Kodak.COM (Matthew Daly) wrote:

>While these were all excellent games, I think that Infocom
>left out the fourth and most compelling installment of the
>series ... Assassin. It would be interesting to see a game
>like you describe, where you have to plan to murder someone
>so as not to be caught. I could envision that you're given
>enough tools to be able to commit the crime in several
>different ways; one in which it appears that the victim
>committed suicide, one in which an enemy of the victim is
>framed, perhaps one in which a total innocent is implicated....

You mean this really hasn't been done already? It would be even better if the
mark was a truly-vile person whose death would benefit mankind. The
protagonist from the Seven game, for example.

>The morality of murder aside, committing The Perfect Murder
>seems to me to be a tantalizing non-linear IF vehicle.
>But, for me to play it, the language would have to be
>about as tame as it was in Witness and Suspect.

You could THEORETICALLY bring the language up to the level of Clive Barker's
Books Of Blood, but then the writing would have to be VERY good.

Matthew Daly

unread,
May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to

In article <4nbhbd$p...@orb.direct.ca> patr...@Direct.CA (Cthulhu) writes:
>I don't know about anyone else, but I was disturbed by the cruelty to animals
>required in Trinity.

><spoiler below>

>KILL SKINK and FEED LEMMING TO SNAKE?

I felt sorry for the poor skink, but you fed the lemming to the snake?
Why? Wasn't there a mongoose that was perfectly willing to fight the
snake on your behalf?

-Matthew Daly

Jon

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May 15, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/15/96
to
> -Matthew DalyNo. The roadrunner would fight the snake for a turn before giving up. (Not enough
fighting room.) You had to sacrifice the lemming to be able to get what you needed from
the room. Getting the lemming for that was the ENTIRE point of the Russia sequence,
which always struck me as a little odd... Jon

mathew

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May 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/20/96
to

In article <4mna7i$5...@news.lth.se>, m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson) wrote:
> And why stop at sadistic serial killers? Why not a game where the
> protagonist is a serial rapist? Or a concentration camp guard? Why
> not "BOSNIA - An Interactive War Crime"?

Actually, some Neo-Nazi groups produced a game called "Concentration Camp
Manager", where you had to make sure you had adequate stocks of Zyklon-B,
kept the incinerators running, and so on. They've produced some less
subtle games too...

The thing is, though, you *could* make a good game out of that scenario.
You could get across the banality of evil; the player could be in a
position of authority, never actually having to perform the evil himself,
and always aware that he must follow orders. Gradually he would explore
the situation he was in, and discover the consequences of his actions, and
see how the whole edifice of authoritarianism keeps running with everybody
placing the moral blame on someone else.

Another interesting possibility would be a Gulf War game -- from the point
of view of an Iraqi soldier.

I once tried to play the game Asylum on the TRS-80. I got nowhere, because
you were expected to attack some of the guards in an insane frenzy rather
than try and sneak past them in some way.


mathew
--
me...@pobox.com http://www.pobox.com/~meta/
"In any event, this is a straw herring for debate."
- sol...@netcom.com (Andrew Solovay)

Magnus Olsson

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May 20, 1996, 3:00:00 AM5/20/96
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In article <ant14110...@arnod.demon.co.uk>, Julian Arnold
<jo...@arnod.demon.co.uk> wrote:

>In article <4n8aog$d...@news.lth.se>, Magnus Olsson
><mailto:m...@marvin.df.lth.se> wrote:

>> 3) The player plays a well-defined role, like in a play, but has the
>> freedom to interpret that role as he sees fit, as long as he stays in
>> character. Perhaps we could call this "interactive theatre", and I
>> imagine this is what Julian and Stephen are discussing.
>

>Yes, that is approximately what I meant. Interactive Theatre... :)

Some further thoughts about role-playing:

An interesting difference between theatre (at least traditional,
Western theatre) and role-playing games, even live ones, is that in
theatre, you play a role imposed on you by the author. Your actions
are determined by the author and you're only free to act within a
rather narrow scope. In RPG's, on the other hand, your role is defined
by you and your actions, and only to some small extent by the game
master and the rules. Still, you can't do what you like - you're
constrained by the personality you've created and by your previous
actions.

What's particularly interesting is that though IF is often described
as computerized RPG's, and (as I wrote in my previous post) there is
very little "interactive theatre" around, the IF that does try to
impose a role on the player does it by forcing him or her to behave
according to the _author's_ conception of the character.

It would be interesting to see a piece of IF where the player can, as
in an RPG, basically decide himself what character he is playing, but
where he is then constrained by that role and by his own actions and
their consequences.

It would also be interesting, of course, to see an example of what I
called "interactive theatre" above.

>> >> If we are locked into the "we are the protagonist" view, then we limit the
>> >> possibilities of IF--we can never progress past what Infocom has already
>> >> done.
>> >
>> >True.
>>
>> Stuff and nonsense. Unless, of course, you both define "progress"
>> narrowly as progress along the third path above.

(...)

>> Of course, Infocom did get far in many of these areas, but claiming
>> that Infocom represents some pinnacle of IF in all areas except that
>> of role playing, and that the only way of progressing beyond their
>> achievements is along the road labeled 3 above, doesn't strike me as
>

>Errm, strike you as what? "very constructive" perhaps?

You're taking the words out of my mouth (or, rather, out of the bit
bucket where they were accidentally stuffed by my newsreader) :-).

>No, if I did define progress as narrowly as you suggest it wouldn't be very
>constructive. What I meant to imply with my monosyllable was that Stephen is
>right, the "we are the protagonist" view (type 1), is an area that future
>authors need to address.

And I agree with you there, of course.

In article <4na1ml$l...@news.duke.edu>, sgra...@itchy.phy.duke.edu
(Stephen Granade) wrote:

In article <4n8aog$d...@news.lth.se> m...@marvin.df.lth.se (Magnus Olsson)
writes:

> Stuff and nonsense. Unless, of course, you both define "progress"
> narrowly as progress along the third path above.
>

>Narrowly? I'm not sure this is such a narrow path.

Well, I wasn't referring to the path, but to your definition of
progress. However...

>In addition, I think
>that there is much progress still to be made along path two.

In that case, it seems I misunderstood you, and I'm sorry for that. In
fact, it seems that we're in almost complete agreement, except for one
thing:

>> There are lots of other ways in which IF can make progress:
>> both "literary" advances such as characterization of NPC's, realistic
>> treatment of human emotions, handling of "difficult" subjects (such as
>> concentration camps), depth of description, sheer beauty of writing;
>> and technical advances such as more "intelligent" NPC behaviour,
>> using other senses than sight, more realistic scoping, and so on.
>

>To me, much of this is window-dressing. Granted, we can improve our
>writing, descriptions, and characterization, but there is a limit to what
>we can do without changing the framework underneath.

What I was objecting to was your statement that the *only* development
in IF that could count as progress was improved characterization of the
player's role.

As you asy, much of what I describe above is window dressing. For
example, and contrary to widely held opinion, "sheer beauty of
writing" can IMHO be considered window dressing; beatuiful prose
without depth is an empty shell.

But I think it's unreasonable not to consider, for example, a piece of
IF with realistic, well-rounded NPC's as progress, even if the player
character is just a blank slate. I think it's a matter of style
whether the protagonist should be a projection of the player or a
well-defined role.

Or perhaps we really are closer to agreement than it seems. For it
just struck me that there is scope for progress in the sense of your
previous post even in the "blank slate" type of game. And even the
very best NPC's are useless if they don't touch the player emotionally
- and if they do, then they serve to define the player character
indirectly.

>> Of course, Infocom did get far in many of these areas, but claiming
>> that Infocom represents some pinnacle of IF in all areas except that
>> of role playing, and that the only way of progressing beyond their
>> achievements is along the road labeled 3 above, doesn't strike me as
>

>Forgive me if I misconstrue what I (think) you were going to say--your
>message was cut off here. I think we need to progress through both 2 and
>3, not just 3--you've put a restriction on my arguement which I did not
>make. The player as well-defined character with fixed thoughts and
>feeling does not need to be as forced as it sounds here. Handled
>skillfully, you can be lead to those thoughts and feelings.

As I wrote above, I misunderstood you, and I'm sorry for that.

>I don't claim that Infocom was the pinnacle of IF.

Sorry for that - I was expressing myself a bit sloppily. What I meant
was that your statement about progress beyond Infocom's achievements
being impossible, unless we do something about the player character,
seemed to imply that no such progress had been made yet. And I don't
think that is true; IMHO several of the recent works of IF *are*
examples of progress beyond Infocom.

>However, I *do*
>believe that, unless we progress beyond the protagonist as player blank
>slate view, we will be unable to make significant artistic progress in IF.

In the light of this discussion, I think you may be right; provided,
that we take "progress beyond the protagonist as player blank slate
view" in a broad sense.

This reminds me of the time when I tried to start a debate about
morality in IF similar to the ongoing one. It seems the IF community
has matured in some way since then, because that time I didn't get much
of positive reaction. What I did get, however, was several comments
about IF being just games where the characters are just puzzle
machinery; empty tokens to which no moral concerns can apply.

_This_ is the paradigm beyond which we must proceed if we want to
develop IF as art rather than a craft. Don't misunderstand me: there's
nothing wrong with adventure game writing as a craft, and it can
actually detract from the quality of a "pure" puzzle game if we start
applying moral considerations to it. But if we want to pursue IF as an
art form, we should have different goals than if we want to produce
interesting games of logic.

--
Magnus Olsson (m...@df.lth.se)

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